Poppies at Blackstone Farm
Friday 25th May 2012
Poppies at Blackstone Farm Fields (c) Justin Heath
We expect another display of poppies this year at our nature reserve, near Bewdley but it won't be the same sea of red seen in previous years .
The display of poppies on the roadside field at Blackstone Farm will not be as striking as in previous years.The field next to the A456 and opposite the Blackstone car park has a crop of oats growing in it this year which will still have scatterings of poppies in the margins and through the crop.More poppies are likely to appear in fields which can be reached further up the pedestrian track leading past the roadside field and up towards the heathland nature reserve.
Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, which owns both the fields and surrounding heathland, are sympathetically managing the land for wildlife.
Andy Harris, the Trust’s conservation officer for the reserve, explained “This is part of the conservation management of the nature reserve - minimising the use of fertilisers on the fields and are planting them on rotation.
“Our long term aim for the reserve is to revert it to heathland in order to extend the habitat at the adjacent Devil’s Spittle and Rifle Range nature reserves. Heathland is the most endangered habitat in the county – we’ve lost around 90% of it in the last 200 years.
“It’s really important not just to conserve what we’ve got left but also to try and re-create some of what we’ve lost.”
Part of the process of re-creating heathland at Blackstone involved low-input agriculture. Plants that grow on heathland require low-nutrient soil so the Trust are growing cereal crops that supplement the natural leaching of nutrients from the soil. The Trust have also deep-ploughed one of the fields to ‘bury’ the nutrient-rich top-soil under the lower-fertility subsoil.
Andy continued “The occurrence of poppies is entirely natural and are indicative of our approach to farming Blackstone. Not only are we leaving wide flower-rich field margins for wildlife but we’re also leaving different fields fallow each year.
“As long as the soil and seeds have been turned over, poppies will spring up. It’s just up to the weather to ensure we have the fantastic displays we saw last year.”
Rare arable plants and the nationally rare Andrena nigrospina, or black bee, are found at the Blackstone reserve.
The Trust took the opportunity to harvest some of the poppy seeds last year and packets of seeds are available in return for a donation towards the management of the nature reserve.
Visitors to the poppies are reminded that Blackstone Farm is a nature reserve and that they shouldn’t venture into the fields.
Andy continued “The poppies provide excellent cover for the several pairs of skylarks that are nesting there. Skylark numbers have dropped dramatically in recent years so it’s really important not to disturb nesting birds. For this reason we ask that visitors do not go beyond the fences into the field itself.”
The roadside field which this year will be a mixture of an oat crop a scattering of poppies is easily visible and accessible from Blackstone car park on the A456. You can read more about our heathland restoration on the Devil's Spittleful nature reserve page.